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What I Want to Achieve

Posted by jonno on Sunday, March 2, 2008

I wish there were a way I could study each of the elements of music so I could develop a better understanding and sense of music. Right now, I hold a passing impression of what music is about. 
Take rhythm as an example. Sometimes I feel like I am on par with an idle listener who mindlessly taps his foot in time. My sense of rhythm is imposed by what I hear externally. I want to develop a sense of rhythm that comes from within.
Fantasy #1: I wish there were a school with a curriculum that would go at a pace that is slow enough for me to internalize each step and build on it in a logical progression that reinforces all that went before. Eventually it would form a foundation on which I could hear infinite possibilities of rhythms, chord progressions, and melodies. Unfortunately, all the music schools I know set the bar very high by only admitting students who have had years of individual instruction. They are not for middle-aged dreamers with day jobs and family responsibilities. 
Fantasy #2: I wish there were a guild where I could enlist as an apprentice to master musicians. I would start with easy and basic tasks, then repeat them so often they become second nature. 
Fantasy #3: Or perhaps I could live in an ashram with a daily routine that allows me to study music like a religion. Each day would begin with silent meditation. All the outside world and inner thoughts become stilled. A perfect concentration. All sound is suspended and every passing moment represents a soundscape of endless possibility. The silence coalesces into a single pulse. A beat, slow and in perfect rhythmic repetition. As the dawn breaks, there is a gradual introduction of variations of accents and rests, dotted rhythms and syncopated phrases. Every note or rest falls precisely on the steady underlying beat. Then begins a call and response. I hear the rhythm, then play the rhythm. Variations come into play. Faster and slower tempos, all the while playing the rhythm perfectly on the beats. Eventually, my playing become even more fine tuned, more precisely synchronized to the beats. Every bow stroke and fingered note dissects the rhythm into perfect fractions. 
These are fantasies because I cannot dedicate my life to music. I have a day job, a family, and a home that all come ahead of music. I play 5-10 hours a week, on my own and with friends. But my progress is more helter-skelter than following a path. I wish I could find a teacher who could guide me along the way. 
I played for about six years in my 20’s, then stopped for 25 years. In May 2006, I dusted off the fiddle and found a teacher. In 9 months she took me much, much farther than I ever had achieved on my own.
In January ’07, I switched to a bluegrass teacher to learn more about chords, breaks and rhythm. He was a great musician and had amazing amounts of insights and facts to share. Too many, in fact. His teaching style seemed to fit someone who has at least six hours a day to concentrate on music. In reality, I can only dedicate a mere hour to deliberate practice.  In contrast to the amount of information he gave me in each lesson, my progress seemed miniscule. 

2 comments on “What I Want to Achieve”

amwildman Says:
Sunday, March 2, 2008 @2:18:15 AM

Finding the right teacher really helps.  In my first year, I started without, then with, then without a teacher.  My progress was up and down.  The second year started slow, but then I got my teacher back a couple of months in.  Like your teacher, he was pushing a bit too hard at first, but I could see he was trying to adjust to my learning speed.  We started clicking and now my progress is pretty steady.  Still slow, but much faster than I was doing on my own.  And I have no glaring weaknesses in comparison to my strengths.  Weaknesses, yes, just not glaring ones.  ;0)